The Three-River Source National Park in northwest China’s Qinghai province, which contains the headwaters of three great rivers of China: the Yellow, the Yangtze, and the Lancang, is the first pilot project of China’s national park initiative.
Near the headstream of the Yellow River, grasslands are flourishing in lush green and lakes stretching as far as one can see, where bar-headed geese, ruddy shelducks and other rare birds are frolicking with each other.
“We are seeing animals species that had never appeared here and rare animals are flocking in,” said Ma Gui, an official with the Yellow River section management committee of the Three-River Source National Park, referring to the changes that are happening to Maduo county, the heartland of China’s Sanjiangyuan (Three-River-Source) National Natural Reserve, as well as one of the core conservation and breeding areas of the Yellow River section of the Three-River-Source National Park. Situated 4,200 meters above the sea level, the county near the headwater of the Yellow River is hailed as ‘the land of a thousand lakes’.
However, a 90-kilometer road linking Maduo county and the Yellow River source once worried Ma a lot. In the past, the road was covered by vast stretches of black soil and it was almost impossible to find any trace of grass.
All the sand and gravels needed for building the road were collected from the roadside, leaving the area with more than 400 pits that looked like fish scales. Besides, a white “scar” is seen on the mountain near the road, as a considerable part of the mountain was cut off.
“Now more than 300 of these pits have been filled and covered by pasture forage grass. Those deep ones now serve as signs of negative example that reminds us to never do that again,” Ma said.
After five years of efforts, the trend of grassland degeneration has been effectively curbed in the Three-River-Source National Park. An average of 6 percent more water resource is being conserved on an annual basis there, and the grassland coverage and grass yield have also increased by over 11 percent and 30 percent respectively from a decade ago. Wildlife population is also on a significant rise.
China initiated the national park initiative in 2015, which encouraged pilot zones under the initiative to give top priority to ecological conservation. The ongoing 10 pilot zones stretch over 12 Chinese provinces and cover a total area of over 220,000 square kilometers, or 2.3 percent of the Chinese land territory.
At present, China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration has started a third-party reviewing for the 10 pilot zones, which is expected to be finished before the end of October, to officially establish their national-park status by the end of 2020.
According to the Administration, China has established a total of 11,800 nature conservation areas of various kinds since 1956 that cover around 18 percent of the land area and 4.1 percent of the sea area under the jurisdiction of the country.
However, these nature conservation areas have been managed by multiple departments, which caused a series of problems on management, demarcation and division of duties. Protection and development are also a pair of sharp contradiction in these areas.
By establishing the national park system, the country intends to create a new mechanism that enables unified management of nature conservation areas by one department.
The endeavor has so far achieved significant results. At present, the pilot zone of the nature reserve of Siberian tiger and Amur leopard has tended 17,367 hectares of forests, finished clearing and reforestation of 2,130 hectares of woodland, and restored the ecological environment for 741 hectares.
Since the establishment of the pilot zone, the numbers of wild animals such as black bear, roe deer, and deer have been growing with each passing day.
Another pilot zone, the Wuyi Mountain pilot zone in east China has completed ecological restoration in 433.33 hectares of land, rectified 487 hectares of illegal tea hills, and demolished 39 illegal constructions.
The pilot zone in a conservation area of giant panda, which has implemented ecological restoration and habitat restoration project and made efforts of build reintroduction base for giant pandas, has managed to restore nearly 2,667 hectares of habitat for giant pandas.